ICP Orchestra at the Vortex – Evan Parker’s Might I Suggest Festival
(Night 4 of 5 nights, Friday 1 February; review and drawings by Geoff Winston)
Another wonderful ICP evening at the Vortex – the whole orchestra took over the room for two sets packed with a combination of musicianship and wit which joyfully stretched these supremely gifted performers to the max. Paying scant respect to musical territoriality, they lingered in the cabarets of the the Berlin of Kurt Weill with a louche gusto and toppled into improvised zones which drew on the orchestrations of Mingus and spine-chillingly summoned the brass section work of a live Ellington or Lunceford band.
The flow of superb individual solos and section work was unstoppable – Michael Moore, Toby Delius and Ab Baars formed a fluid and intuitive clique with Baars and Moore adopting the clarinet as well as their core saxes; behind them Wolter Wierbos and Thomas Heberer offered explosions of brass expression. Han Bennink whooped and whopped with alacrity and the measured acoustic refinement of Ernst Glerum’s bass underscored the near abandon of the frontline.
But perhaps the most piquant aspect of the evening was the presence of Misha Mengelberg and the authority he brought he brought to the piano keyboard. Even the most tentative of his touches carried the combined weight of Monk’s commitment to the exclusion of the extraneous and Cage’s vision of the inclusive compass of musical possibility. Humour abounded in vocal and gestural exchanges with Tristan Honsiger (cello) which burgeoned with absurdist expression. A pop-eyed Honsinger memorably created the illusion of passing his cello bow through his neck to the delight of the crowd.
There was also poignancy as Misha held the hand of a doting, beaming and ever-watchful violinist, Mary Oliver – one was reminded that he is not a well man. The Dutch Alzheimer’s Trust were filming all the concerts and his trip to London – perhaps they’ll be able to show how music unlocks the damaged mind – as Evan Parker, the curator of this extraordinary 5 day residency at the Vortex, has said, whenever he plays with Misha, there are no impediments to the musical engagement.
An historic evening, without doubt, and one brimming with good humour, goodwill and enjoyment.
Instant Composers Pool Orchestra:Misha Mengelberg (piano)
Mary Oliver (violin)
Tristan Honsinger (cello)
Toby Delius (saxophone)
Ernst Glerum (bass)
Ab Baars (saxophone)
Michael Moore (saxophone)
Thomas Heberer (trumpet)
Wolter Wierbos (trombone)
Han Bennink (drums)